Word of the Day

A crash course in isiZulu

October 14, 2015

Ngiyaxolisa [gee (as in "geese") -ya-('x' is a click sound, see below)-oh-LEE-sah]

This is a polite way to say "I am sorry".

It's relevant for several reasons; yesterday, my Word of the Day email did not send out on time because there was an issue with the automatic delivery schedule I set up. Today you should receive an email for both October 13th and 14th.

Secondly, this word is a good way to introduce the present tense and the three click sounds of isiZulu!

The October 13th Word of the Day (Unjani?) taught us how to use the subject link "u-". Here you can see the 1st person singular subject link "Ngi-" being used. For beginners, this sound is a little difficult to make. You can begin by pronouncing it as I have indicated above (gee, as in "geese"), but the true pronunciation includes an 'n' nasal tone in front as well. To make the nasal sound, you should almost be humming through your nose with your tongue touching the top of your mouth. Then practice saying "gee-" quickly after you make the nasal tone!

The "-ya-" portion of this word means that the action is taking place in the present tense. However, in longer sentences where an object is present this tense marker disappears.

Finally, there are three letters that translate into click sounds in isiZulu. These are 'c', 'q', and 'x'. I've provided common explanations of how to make the sounds below along with an awesome recording of each click sound. Start the video around 1:00 in to hear only the click sounds, or watch the whole thing to hear a few other key pronunciations!

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Zulu 101: Pronunciation


This is especially for all my Chicago friends...

Nqoba, izinyane zamabhele, nqoba!

(Google Translate actually works quite well for this!)

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